Wednesday, January 13, 2010

10 NHL Questions

10. Does the NHL have a 'Tim Donaghy' moment on their hands?
Following Monday's Vancouver/Nashville game Alex Burrows basically lobbed a grenade at the league office when he flatly stated that referee Stephane Auger was carrying out a personal vendetta when he made two calls against him during the third period. A few years ago this wouldn't have been that big a deal, but after the Tim Donaghy scandal that rocked the NBA, the NHL has a serious question to ponder: Do they fine and suspend Burrows for his comments and side with the ref even though the player seems to have ample proof (a pre-game conversation, video footage of the questionable calls and a detailed history between the two) of his side of the story or do they validate the players claims, suspend the ref and risk opening pandora's box?

9a. Is the Detroit dynasty over?
Okay, first of all it hasn't really been a dynasty for the Wings. Yes, they won 4 championships in 12 years but they were spread out across two decades. A dynasty is multiple championships in a row or nearly in a row. Like three in four years. Not to say that Detroit won't make the playoffs this year or even next, but their run of 9 straight 100+ point seasons and being either the first or second playoff seed in the Western Conference is very much in doubt. And losing 6-0 to the Islanders? The Islanders? That never would have happened if Pavel Datsyuk were still alive.

9b. What happened to Nicklas Lidstrom?
When you watch him play he looks the same and continues to eat up a lot of minutes, but after 17 seasons the 39-year-old Lidstrom is finally showing his age. The Captain of the Wings has averaged 13 goals and 59 points a season over his illustrious career but has only a single goal and 20 measley points (ranking 34th among NHL defencemen) this year.

8. Is Barry Trotz invisible?
The only coach Predator fans have ever known, the man who guided the franchise from expansion infancy to 100 point seasons and perennial playoff appearances, continues to coach in relative obscurity. All Trotz does is win in Nashville, and yet nobody ever notices. The Preds have hosted postseason games in four of the last five years and will again be in the fight for a playoff spot in the West this season despite having the league's third lowest payroll ($44.4M, behind PHX $41.7M and NYI $44.3) and one of it's most un-inspiring rosters. Casual hockey fans would be hard-pressed to name more than a couple of Nashville players yet Trotz always seems to over-achieve with his crew. If this team was located in Hamilton or the Toronto area (where it absolutely should be, but that's another story) Trotz would be the second-coming of Scotty Bowman.

7. Is the moustache here to stay?
During the 70's and 80's, NHL players routinely sported 'lip foliage' but the trend nearly disappeared in the 90's and the early 00's. However, over the last few years many of the league's heaviest hitters (George Parros, Dan Carcillo) have brought the 'nose neighbor' back, and some of the league's younger players have jumped on board and started rocking the 'soup strainer'. And if you're thinking maybe I included this question just so I could slip-in a bunch of cool moustache nicknames, well, you might be right.

6. Why did it take Andrei Markov getting injured for Marc-Andre Bergeron to get a job?
The 29-year-old Bergeron had seasons of 15, 14, 9 and 14 goals following the lockout and yet somehow found himself without a contract when training camps began last September. During those four years, only six defencemen scored more goals (Phaneuf-65, Souray-64, Chara-63, Lidstrom-55, Boyle-55, and McCabe-54) than Bergeron's 52. With 10 goals so far this year, Bergeron trails only Mike Green in scoring by defencemen.

5. When will GM's learn to stop paying for goalies?
Craig Anderson has been stellar in Colorado and was signed for only $1.5 million last summer. Antti Niemi continues to take games away from Cristobal Huet in Chicago while Jonas Hiller does the same to J.S. Giguere in Anaheim. Tuuka Rask has badly outplayed Tim Thomas in Boston, making Peter Chiarelli's decision to give the 35-year-old journeyman Thomas a four year $20 million contract even more perplexing. Philadelphia picks up Michael Leighton off waivers and he goes 8-0-1 in his first 9 starts. The LA Kings have been in a playoff position all year in the West and will spend a total of $1.32M combined on Jon Quick and Erik Ersberg. Same thing with Nashville, who will pay Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne $2.7M total. The lesson: If you're not employing Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo, don't pay for goaltending.

4. Is it absolutely killing Leaf fans to be headed towards their 5th straight spring without playoffs? Is the fact that Toronto has no first round picks in either of the next two drafts threatening to drive members of Leafs Nation on a multi-province killing spree? Has Brian Burke aged roughly 20 years in the 15 months he's been in charge of the Maple Leafs?
Yes, yes and yes. And while we're here...the Leafs are purposefully trying to be the worst penalty killing team in history, right? There's no way they could honestly be that bad, it has to be an inside joke or a plea to get Ron Wilson fired. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

3. What is going on in the Calgary dressing room?
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. But I do know how to speculate...and read between the lines. On the ice, the Flames have enjoyed a solid first half of the season and certainly appear headed for a playoff birth and potentially home-ice advantage in the first round. But off the ice there appear to be some problems. First there was the shouting match back in November between Brent Sutter and Dion Phaneuf that has lead to continued trade rumours surrounding the defenceman, and now, a new report from the New York Post suggests there is a growing rift between Jarome Iginla and Sutter due to the coach bringing too many Junior hockey tactics to the big leagues.

2. Who will win the scoring race?
No, not the Art Ross for most points, the Rocket Richard trophy that is given to the player who leads the league in goals. Normally this wouldn't even be a question. Alexander Ovechkin is hands down the best scorer in hockey. He's averaged 55 goals a season over his four year career but has already missed 8 games this year due to injury and suspension. With 27 goals so far, Ovechkin is still the odds-on favourite, but with the way he plays and the reputation he now has, another suspension is always right around the corner. And that brings a finally healthy (but for how long?) Marian Gaborik, a suddenly re-tooled Sidney Crosby (including the playoffs he has 44 goals in his last 70 games) and two-thirds of the Shark line (Heatley and Marleau) all into the equation.

1. Is Ilya Kovalchuk destined for the KHL?
The fear of the escrow tax combined with the uncertain stability surrounding the Thrashers (and perhaps the enormous shadow of a certain countryman and NHL rockstar with the initials A.O.?) might be enough to push Kovalchuk home to Russia when his contract expires after the season. He reportedly loves Atlanta but has turned down several contract extensions that are rumoured to be in excess of $10 million a year and worth over $100 million total. Well, something doesn't add up and all signs point to the motherland.


  1. Love watching Leaf nation's bi-polar-ness. It's great,

  2. I stopped reading at "the Wings were not a dynasty" .. j/k